Europe's top court dealt a blow to anti-piracy crusaders and tallied a win for proponents of Internet freedom today by ruling that social networking sites cannot be required to set up an anti-piracy filtering system.
The ruling involves a case brought against Netlog, an online social network based in Belgium, by a music royalties firm claiming that the site, in addition to other social networks, should be scouring the content posted by users in order to "ensure it does not infringe copyright." Sabam, the aforementioned royalties firm, dragged in the dead horse argument that "some" of Netlog's users had been sharing copyright protected music and videos on the website.
The European Court of Justice, however, wasn't shopping for worn out excuses today. While acknowledging that the requested anti-privacy measure would remedy Sabam's problem, the action "would not be respecting the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the right to intellectual property, on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information, on the other." Moreso, the court recognized that requiring sites to implement an anti-piracy filter "could potentially undermine freedom of information" as well as act as a "serious infringement of the freedom" of Netlog.
Smell that? Sounds like somebody just got served a hot plate of justice.
Of course, would the court to have ruled in the other direction, the reverberations would assuredly been felt on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Because that's the direction this slippery slope falls and thankfully the court saw the danger of persecuting the ostensible pirates sharing music and movies on, god forbid, a social media site built for sharing things.